Shunga is a form of pornography, or erotica, which flourished in Japan during the Edo period (17th-19th centuries). I became interested in Shunga prints during my undergraduate study in New Zealand in early 2013. My initial interest in Shunga sprouted out of the criticism from my academics at university that my work was “too safe” and “too cute”. In response to this I gave them pornography. What started as a practice more concerned with show and shock factor however quickly turned into my passion. Historical Shunga reflects the acceptance or celebration of sex in Shinto culture, and values love, mutual pleasure and equality between sexual partners. Shunga, which literally translates to “Spring pictures” is also positively associated with the season of fertility and new life. I am interested in how these idealised visions of the Shunga artist might compare to prevailing ideas regarding pornography in contemporary society.
I think that the desire to have sex is not only normal but something wonderful and to celebrate. The curiosity to look at sexual material is human and healthy. When sexual desires and fantasies are repressed it can be damaging to our intimate relating and can lead people to feel frustrated and and perhaps even critical of others. I want to provide a platform for people to talk about sex in a open and positive environment. In recent years I have focused more heavily on the concept of “Warai-e”, another name for Shunga which literally translates to “laughing pictures”. Warai-e art often feature bizarre sexual positions, strange circumstances and unlikely sexual partners, such as octopuses and demons. The texts that accompany many of the works are rich with puns, euphemisms and jokes. I think the lighthearted nature of the works as well as the skilful execution of the prints make them very appealing and approachable. In my own works I have decided to use Western humour to express my multicultural heritage of being both Japanese and New Zealand descent. I chose “Love is blind”, the famous Shakespearean quote for the title of my show to convey passion and romance, but also a joke on the physical state of my figures which I depict with no face, and therefore no ability to see. The inspiration for the tree climbing lovers came from the infamous chant used to tease couples “(name) and (name) up a tree, F. U. C. K. I. N. G” I also incorporated copperplate etching into my art practice because historically many Western erotic artworks were made in this medium. Of course “Want to come up and see my etchings?” is one of the oldest and most cliched pick up lines in Western history. Interestingly a popular term for sex in Japan is “Ecchi” which makes for a great pun. If you look closer at my works you will find other visual sexual euphemisms such as a wrist watch stopped at 6 and 9 and a “pussy” cat on a branch.